The slimming pill controversy

XLS weight loss advertisements have been banned after advertising watchdog receives over 200 complaints. Advertised on three different media platforms, the XLS medical campaign found itself subject to criticism by the ‘Advertising Standards Authority’ (ASA) for proposing an unhealthy approach to body image, the press association reports.

XLS Medical, a slimming aid that is readily available online and in stores, ran a 30 second ad featuring two already slim girls discussing a beach holiday via text-messaging and pictures. One girl recommends XLS Medical, which promises ‘up to three times more weight loss versus dieting alone’, in preparation for the trip. The other girl complains as she will ‘never fit into [her] holiday wardrobe’. The campaign finishes with the girls on holiday posing together for a photo.

The advert, which ran on YouTube, television and video on demand, sparked a public outrage as the ad was seen to promote an unhealthy body image. ASA, which received 200 complaints, was concerned in particular for the adverts effect amongst young girls.

XLS Medical’s parent company, Omega Pharma, was quick to defend the criticisms. The company denied claims of targeting women with low body confidence, saying it wanted to use feelings of ‘holiday preparation’ and ‘elation’ to reach the common goal – reaching a ‘healthy weight’.

However, ASA disagreed calling the advert socially irresponsible and premised on the characters poor body image. The girl, who is concerned about fitting into her holiday wardrobe, is presented in the advert as ‘needing to lose weight’ despite her ‘already slim and healthy appearance’

“The combination of her slim build and healthy weight created the impression that, despite her healthy physical appearance, weight loss was still necessary,” said the ASA. “The overall impression created by the ad presented an irresponsible approach to body image and confidence. In that regard, we concluded the ad was socially irresponsible and, therefore, breached the [advertising] code.”

The ASA warned Omega Pharma that they must ‘take care to ensure their products were advertised in a socially responsible way’.

The controversial ad was banned from our screens before many of us could see it, but we were quick to hear about it via social media. Members of the public took to twitter to voice their disapproval:

‘I find that XLS Medical advert offensive. The girls in it look like teenagers. Diet pills for teenagers? No wonder they’re so body conscious’ – @KatieDailyEcho.

‘Disappointed with #XLS medical TV ad. Shocking portrayal of a thin woman complaining about not losing enough weight. Regressive advertising’ – @clinicaldarrenm.

Clearly, the advert targets a specific demographic of young females. The controversy is clouded by the adverts use of female body image insecurities as a means to determine the purchase of slimming pills; in other words to determine a profit. The media should encourage people to be happy in themselves, not to be pressured to take slimming pills to adhere to a particular image.